Eggs Gone Bad

Monday morning I took a three and a half hour bus ride from Auckland to Rotorua. The countryside as we approached Rotorua was filled with green hills of a shape I haven’t seen elsewhere. I can only figure they are a product of the area’s geothermal/volcanic activity. They are smallish in terms of the circumference of the base, but very steep with a very rounded top. Many looked like they should have to entrance to a hobbit house peering out, not surprising since the Hobbiton set wasn’t that far away from part of the bus’s itinerary.

The host of my B&B picked me up and suggested some activities for the afternoon. I took a great hour walk to get back to downtown, starting out through anyone forest and then passing through several (smelly) areas of geothermal activity called Sulfur Bay. It’s called that for a reason – parts of Rotorua where you can see steam escaping from the earth smell like rotten eggs due to the sulfur content in the escaping vapor. I was really excited to walk through these area but also terrified, as it wasn’t always easy to distinguish the gravel of the path with the gravel of the unstable dangerous ground. Not surprisingly however, I made it through in one piece and without accidentally putting my foot through unstable ground into an acidic and scalding basin of water.

I then took a little bus tour to orient must to the city. I wrapped up the evening pretty early – it’s been a lot of early mornings.

Kia Ora! Hello from Auckland!

Despite my best intentions to get out early to see all I could see in my one day in Auckland, I had quite a leisurely morning at the B&B I was staying at. This B&B was a self-indulgent splurge, and was well worth it after the physical challenges of the prior few days.

To start, I walked over to the museum. (Technically called the Auckland War Memorial Museum, the war-related exhibits only take up the top floor.)

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I started out walking through some of the first floor galleries, but the real gem in my opinion is the Maori Court area, full of various Maori artifacts.

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This carving is from the prow of a Waka, or war boat.

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The protruding tongue visible in many of the carvings is reminiscent of the bulging eyes and stuck out tongue displayed by men during the haka (or war dance). It denotes ferocity and aggression in a haka, or more simply passion, if I understood correctly, in other contexts. If you want to see a haka, the New Zealand rugby team the All Blacks performs one prior to each match.

I learned this because I attended the half hour cultural performance at the museum, which was well worth the additional fee. They demonstrated a number of songs and dances, including the haka and the poi dance. Poi are balls attached to a cord, which dancers use to make rhythms and as an extension of their bodies while dancing.

It hadn’t quite clicked until the cultural performance that Maori are related to other Pacific Islanders, including Hawaiians. The songs and dances sparked that realization, however.

I did check out the second floor of the museum quite briefly. There are natural history exhibits on that floor but I was ready to go out and explore the downtown or CBD.

I walked through a park called the Domain on my way down the hill from the museum to the CBD. There were some amazing huge old trees on the way.

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Once downtown, I checked where my bus would leave the following morning, then headed up to the i-site (tourist information center) in the basement of the Skytower. The crazies were out, making the latter part of the walk rather unpleasant.

I didn’t love the CBD, but Auckland is a city of suburbs that I think contain more charm and character. The host at my B&B had suggested that I go out to one of the islands in the Auckland harbor, and since I didn’t have much time, he suggested Devonport. It’s got historical seaside homes and two volcanoes, one of which I climbed (North Head). North Head used to have a military post on it, so there are some lookouts and such you can explore from the top. There’s also a splendid view of the CBD.

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The paths up are through lush green grass that is delightfully springy, like a manicured lawn. The benefit of growing on an old volcano, I expect, plus obvious city maintenance.

It started raining so I took the ferry back to the CBD and a bus back to Parnell, where I was staying. It seemed fitting to conclude my first full day in New Zealand with some New Zealand lamb and wine (pinot noir), so I did!